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Critical Conversations

Critical Conversations

Spertus Institute Launches Critical Conversations Series

Inaugural event to feature Former Governors
Jennifer Granholm and Mike Huckabee,
moderated by Frank Sesno

Front-page issues from gun rights to immigration reform are among those to be addressed by former Governors Jennifer Granholm (D-Michigan) and Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas) in the inaugural Critical Conversations event, presented by Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

Taking place Sunday March 18, 2018 and moderated by former CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno, this event kicks off a major new program series inspired by Judaism’s embrace of passionate civil discourse. Critical Conversations will bring together notable thought leaders with opposing points of view.

“This series seeks to answer the question: In these fractious and deeply partisan times, are we even capable of holding civil conversations on the challenges we face?” said Spertus President and CEO Dr. Hal M. Lewis. “Judaism teaches that robust debate and respect for diverse opinions can coexist. Critical Conversations is designed to model the behavior we so desperately need in our country today.”

Tickets for the inaugural Critical Conversations event are $36. VIP tickets for $100 include a reception with the speakers. Tickets can be purchased online at

Spertus Institute is located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

The program begins at 4:30 pm.


Jennifer M. Granholm,former two-term governor of Michigan, led Michigan through a period of unprecedented economic change. Granholm became the first woman elected governor of Michigan in 2002. In 2006, she was re-elected with the largest number of votes ever cast for governor. As Michigan faced meltdown in the auto industry and a global shift in manufacturing jobs, Granholm worked to diversify the state’s economy, adding new jobs in emerging sectors such as clean energy. As a result, Michigan led the country in the improvement of job market conditions between 2009 and 2010, according to the Gallup Job Creation Index.

Granholm served as Michigan Attorney General prior to her terms as governor. Following her terms, she joined the faculty at UC Berkeley and was named a senior research fellow at the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute. She chairs the American Jobs Project, an initiative focused on state-based policies to create advanced manufacturing jobs in clean energy. Granholm is the co-author of the political bestseller, A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future. She is currently a senior contributor to CNN and CEO of Granholm Mulhern Associates.

Mike Huckabee was Governor of Arkansas from 1996 until 2007. Although only the fourth Republican elected to any statewide office since Reconstruction, he became one of the longest serving Governors in his state’s history. He left a legacy of tax cuts, job creation, reconstruction of his state’s road system, education reform, and a nationally heralded health initiative that focused on prevention over intervention. His administration fought long-standing corruption in the state’s political machine. Governing magazine named Huckabee one of its “Public Officials of the Year” in 2005 and Time Magazine honored him as one of the five best governors in America. He chaired the National Governors Association as well as the Interstate Oil and Gas Commission.

In his campaign for the Republican nomination for President in 2008, Huckabee finished second to John McCain. From 2008 until 2015, he hosted the top-rated weekend show, HUCKABEE, on Fox News. He hosted The Huckabee Report — heard across the nation on close to 600 radio stations — from 2009 to 2015. A New York Times bestselling author, he currently serves as a Fox News contributor and is one of the nation’s most sought-after conservative speakers.

Frank Sesno (moderator) is an Emmy Award-winning journalist with more than thirty years of experience. Known for his work on CNN as an anchor and White House Correspondent, he is also a nationally renowned moderator who has interviewed five U.S. Presidents and influential figures such as Bill Gates, Benyamin Netanyahu, Condoleezza Rice, Anderson Cooper, Karl Rove, Hillary Clinton, and Colin Powell. He appears regularly on U.S. and international media including CNN, BBC, NPR, CBC, and Chinese Central Television. Publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Politico turn to Sesno for his observations and analysis. He currently serves as Director of The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership offers dynamic learning opportunities, rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and open to all. Graduate programs and workshops train future leaders and engage individuals in exploration of Jewish life. Public programs — including films, exhibitions, speakers, seminars, workshops, and concerts — take place at the Institute's Michigan Avenue facility, in the Chicago suburbs, and online. Information can be found at

Critical Conversations is generously funded by the late Eric Joss, with additional support from program sponsors Alliance Bernstein LP, Levenfeld Perlstein LLC, Oppenheimer, and Krueck + Sexton Architects.

Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Read opening remarks from Spertus President and CEO Dr. Hal M. Lewis. Read >